Customer Service: The Paper Bag Lesson

A few weeks, our IT superhero and guardian angle, Tom Gruber, did something a bit out of character: he went shopping, and we came along (we are all  very much not into shopping). Tom wanted to hit "his" Tommy Hilfiger outlet store in Vegas, where we were all spending part of the summer together. Here's what we observed at the cash register when a tourist family was trying to pay. We don't know where the family was from (Italy, perhaps), but they clearly weren't native speakers and struggled a bit through the conversation. They had piled up a huge amount of items on the cash register. Here's the gist of the conversation:

Customer: Could we please have separate bags for some of these purchases? They are special gifts for friends and family back home.
Cashier: No, I am sorry, you may not. It is against our policy to give additional paper bags to our customers.
Customer: I am confused. I am buying several hundred dollars' worth of merchandise and all I want is a few extra bags so I can separate out the presents and make carrying easier.
Cashier: I am sorry, that is against our policy.
Customer: So you are saying you will have to fit everything I bought in ONE bag?
Cashier: Oh, no, we will give you several bags if your merchandise does not fit in one. I just cannot give you empty bags.
Customer: I am not asking for a discount; I just want a few extra paper bags!
Cashier: I am sorry, that's against our policy. Your total is $345.16. Cash or credit?

Our take: ouch. Is it worth alienating customers over a few paper bags, which cost peanuts? Of course not. If we had been the customers, we had just walked away from this transaction. However, these customers had gone to a great deal of trouble to find and select all their items, and they probably liked the prices. We don't blame this bad customer service on the cashier -- she's just following instructions -- but certainly on Tommy management. While we understand that you have to save costs in these difficult economic times, depriving paying customers of an additional paper bag doesn't seem to be the way to build customer loyalty, which is exactly what companies need to succeed these years. Our decision: we won't shop at Tommy Hilfiger if they can't even give a poor customer fro another country an extra paper bag. The lesson we can all learn: go the extra mile for your customers, paper bag and all. 


Kevin Lossner on August 3, 2010 at 6:54 AM said...

Absolutely appalling. I wouldn't let the cashier of the hook here either or you'll have to start excusing the old death camp guards for following orders too. As an employer, I would prefer to have an employee who breaks the rules without breaking the law to build my business rather than a stupid policy robot.

Thomas Gruber on August 6, 2010 at 12:44 AM said...

Best would have been if they would have payed each item separately. Because then they would have got 20 Bags instead of one ;-)

Jonathan Downie on August 18, 2010 at 1:42 AM said...

I have to agree with Kevin here. That was absolutely appalling customer service and poor thinking on the part of the cashier. Surely a few pense worth of bags is worth hundreds of pounds worth of custom? To quote an internet meme: Tommy Hilfiger Fail!

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